Building or renovating a home is a significant investment in time, emotion, energy and money – so it stands to reason you should take some time shopping around for the right builder to meet your needs.
To help you make your decision, we’ve put together some things to consider when finding your perfect match:
- Prepare a list. Do your research thoroughly before you pick up the phone. Contact your local Housing Industry Association (HIA). Look at the websites of local builders, check out their portfolio and check whether any examples echo your vision. If you can, visit the sites. Pay attention to build durability and attention to detail. Then, take your top three and start checking their references.
- Listen to word of mouth. Hearing about a builder on the grapevine is often the best way to choose a firm that meets your needs. Architects, draftspersons and interior designers are good sources of information – they know what they're talking about and have extensive experience with a wide range of builders. If you have a friend/family member/ work colleague who swears by their builder and you like the look of their work, add them to your list. When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask a builder if you can get the contact details of some of their happy customers – ask them if they're satisfied with the build, if problems were fixed promptly and if they'd consider buying another home from them? The answers should tell you all you need to know.
- Speak up. Don't be afraid to ask questions, no matter how silly they might sound. The right builder for you will be happy to give you the answers you need – remember, you're the client here, and it's your money on the line, so you want to feel completely comfortable that communications will be transparent and accessible throughout the build. Ask them about their building philosophy – does it mesh with your thinking? Ask what products they'll use (you want them to use the best for the money you can afford), whether they'll give you a full estimate in writing before work begins, what will happen if construction goes overtime (it frequently does, and every delay will cost you money) and who’ll be your key contact. If the answers sound good to you – move on to the next stage.
- Share your vision. Be very specific about what you want. This is your dream home, after all. An experienced builder will listen carefully to your specifications and be upfront about what is and what isn't possible regarding your timeframe and budget. Give them finalised scaled drawings of your project from your architect with a list of specs – and remember, if you make any significant changes to these later down the track, it will always cost you more than you expected.
- Get a contract. Once your chosen builder has seen your specs and drawings, they can put together an estimate for you. If you're happy, get everything down in writing. If the builder has a contract ready for you to sign, let your lawyer check it first. It should include provisions for the unexpected – like builds that go over time, what happens if you change your mind and decide you want a larger kitchen. Also, its preferable to ask for staged payments based on completion of agreed phases so that you can stay on top of the project's timelines and quality.
Choosing a builder with extensive knowledge in the type of home you want is vital – often their prior experience means they'll be able to forestall potential problems well ahead of time and you'll be happier with the final product.